Right-Wing Commentators With A Persecution Complex Is Nothing New

A man aggressively grabbed a Sun journalist’s hat, the Sun demanded it be a dominant story in that week’s news cycle, and the mainstream media obliged.

You’ve probably heard by now that a Toronto Sun photojournalist was assaulted on August 11 by a demonstrator at Nathan Phillips Square during an anti-hate demonstration. The alleged perpetrator was thankfully caught and charged the following weekend by the police. It was an apparently unprovoked, cowardly attack by a muscular 28-year-old man on a smaller 63-year-old man, veteran Sun photographer Stan Behal. Everyone should be glad the alleged assailant has been charged; aggressively putting one’s hands on another without permission is never acceptable in a civil society, and those who commit such acts should be punished.

That being said, the bellyaching from Sun commentators claiming this attack was initially ignored by mainstream media because Behal was a Sun journalist and because the culprit may have been an “Antifa” demonstrator was just plain ludicrous.

They cawed on Twitter and in their columns that the mainstream press didn’t want to make left-wing activists look bad.

Yet, around the same time last year, two Global News reporters were assaulted by Antifa protestors in Quebec City, one being shoved down stairs and the other’s camera being destroyed. Other than Global News’ own coverage, there were hardly any other reports of the incident. In June of 2017, Kevin Metcalf, then the promotions and communications coordinator for Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, was verbally threatened and physically assaulted by right-wing demonstrators in Toronto. The attack was caught on tape, but again, there was not a lot of coverage. Back in 2014, journalist Joey Coleman, an occasional guest on CANADALAND, was grabbed and shoved by Hamilton city councillor Lloyd Ferguson. Much of the security footage showing the assault was destroyed, a sham investigation was conducted, and the story never got any national media attention.

Sadly, the persecution complex of right-wing media personalities is nothing new.

Speaking to a former employee of the defunct Sun News channel before writing this column, he recalled a very minor physical altercation during the 2014 Burnaby Mountain protests between one of the network’s reporters and a protestor that was inflated into a major story reported for days by Ezra Levant and other Sun News Network hosts. More recently, Rebel “Commander” Levant has had young female Rebel personalities attend left-wing demonstrations, ostensibly to cover them, but also to provoke left-wing protestors into getting angry — then reporting gleefully when they’ve successfully incensed their targets. When Rebel Media correspondent Sheila Gunn Reid was assaulted in Edmonton, having her camera punched out of her hand by a left-wing activist — a despicable act, to be sure — the far-right outlet milked it for all it was worth, putting out a bounty to find the man, creating a website named after the assailant, and raising funds to sue him in court. The mainstream media covered the assault extensively.

Yet, as Sun columnists were bemoaning the mainstream media not caring for their safety, they must’ve forgotten or were oblivious to Sun columnist Joe Warmington attending a Rebel Media live event as a guest speaker back in June, where he stood by while a BuzzFeed journalist was called nasty names by Levant, Gunn Reid, and others, whipping up a hostile crowd of Rebel supporters. Journalist and author Scaachi Koul was compared to vaginal itching by one Rebel personality and was trashed by Levant in a rant to his congregation; he called Koul a “bigot” and “fake news,” working for “a dumpster fire.” Sheila Gunn Reid led Rebel attendees to chant “lock her up,” and Rebel’s David Menzies called Koul a “degenerate,” “mentally unstable,” and “thuggish.” This encouraged the attendees to clap, cheer, and hurl their own insults at Koul. (CANADALAND, coincidentally, just pointed out how Sun columnists, who distanced themselves after Rebel’s meltdown last summer, are back being buddy-buddy with Levant’s far-right outlet, which, needless to repeat, is extremely hostile towards many journalists.)

Then there’s the fact editor Lorrie Goldstein said Behal was fine a couple days after the assault, but the paper later reported he was afflicted with a concussion and on leave from work. I won’t cast doubt on Behal’s story (he is, by all accounts, a well-respected and well-liked professional). I won’t ask questions of Behal, such as when he consulted his doctor and who his doctor is, like Goldstein asked of the Danforth shooter’s family, after his colleague Anthony Furey suggested the family’s press statement, which explained their son had a long history of mental illness, was crafted by a “spin doctor.” Concussion symptoms can be noticed days later, and I sincerely hope Behal gets better soon.

(The Sun also thought it was a good idea to print the address and apartment number of the family of the Danforth shooter, a pretty clear example of journalists endangering others.)

Meanwhile, Canadian neo-Nazis are calling for the killing of liberal journalists, and another far-right group recently stormed Vice’s Montreal newsroom to intimidate journalists who put themselves in danger by unmasking the increasing radicalization of the Canadian alt-right. That’s not to say there isn’t a legitimate threat from elsewhere on the political spectrum, e.g. Black Bloc in Montreal, but Sun columnists acted as if they’re uniquely persecuted.

“On August 11th, the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam, a hate group that calls Muslims sewage and scum, and have called for their execution, wanted to hold a rally in Toronto and failed in the face of the planned counter-demonstration and far-right infighting,” says Evan Balgord, the executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (and former CANADALAND contributor), which helped get the word out and endorsed one of the organizing efforts. “It’s disappointing that most of our news industry followed the Toronto Sun and focused so much attention on the Behal incident at the expense of the most important story from that weekend — that WCAI was stopped.”

Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy smeared the entirety of the group of demonstrators at the anti-hate rally as hate-filled in her column recounting the event, failing to mention that other attendees immediately told the man to stop when he assaulted Behal.

The reality is one jackass acted alone in aggressively grabbing a Sun journalist’s hat, the Sun demanded it be a dominant story in that week’s news cycle, and the mainstream media obliged. Howling journalists get the ink devoted to them, I guess, but no one should be fooled into thinking they’re hard done by.

Graeme Gordon is a freelance journalist regularly contributing to CANADALAND and Loonie Politics.

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